Yeonmi Park‘s book In Order to Live: A North Korean Girl’s Journey to Freedom has been one of the most anticipated memoirs of the year, and it’s no wonder why. Park’s story on The Guardian resonates on many levels, as she has endured several atrocities relating to human rights situations that currently plague our world.
After escaping North Korea with her mother—in hopes of finding a better life in China—both Yeonmi and her mother were sold into human trafficking. Then, following an astonishing turn of events, Yeonmi was eventually able to reunite her entire family, but not for long. Once her father had joined Yeonmi and her mother in China, he soon became very ill. By this point, he had spent a good deal of time in a North Korean prison camp, so he had not had access to good healthcare.
Unfortunately, Mr. Park’s situation deteriorated and he died of colon cancer. Once again, the Park women were forced to fend for themselves. This time, their situation had again become desperate and they knew they had to leave China in search of a better life. But where would they go? Yeonmi’s book chronicles all of her journeys with her family—from North Korea and beyond. Her autobiography is a testament to the human spirit, as anyone who has seen her speak will know. Her powerful accounts of her experiences as a young woman in North Korea—and a refugee in China—remind our world that we still have so much work to do when it comes to the issue of human rights.
If anyone has been working consistently to remind us of the plight of refugees, it is Ms. Park on reason.com. Her life story has served as a virtual front seat to some of the most pressing issues confronting our world right now. When she was a small child, Park was subjected to the rule of North Korea, and she was taught that Westerners were evil and that the Kim dynasty of rulers was somehow divine. In fact, she even speaks of believing that Kim Jong-Il, also known as “Dear Leader,” could actually read her mind.
Park’s father’s incarceration would alter the lives of his family forever, however. Once he was sent off to a prison camp for selling metals to the Chinese, then suddenly all bets were off. The Park women were ostracized from their community, as their father had disgraced them in the eyes of their peers. They struggled to find enough food to survive, and eventually things became so bad that the women were starving. It was time to escape the tyranny. However, it would take much longer to escape tyranny than they could have ever dreamed.